No closure after mom’s mysterious hospital death

The Eastern Cape Men’s Sector has urged men to take advantage of the men's dedicated health service at public facilities in the province. (File Photo)
Sammy Sappie says nurses on duty only noticed that his mother was dead when he called them.

Five months have passed since Thabitha Sappie was rushed by ambulance to the hospital in Tsakane, Ekurhuleni on August 20 last year. She died in a normal ward hours later that day. Her family claim she was supposed to have been put into the Intensive Care Unit, but because it was full she was sent to a normal ward instead.

For five months Sappie has been asking what transpired between the time his mother was admitted to the hospital and the time he found her dead. And still, the Gauteng Department of Health has yet to give him any answers, leaving him battling to come to terms with the sudden loss of his mother.


Sappie, who is the head of Osizweni Clinic at Far Eastrand Hospital, told Health-e News that he believed that if it wasn’t for the Pholosong Hospital’s negligence, his mother would still be alive.

According to Sappie, his mother arrived at the hospital’s casualty unit. She was supposed to have been immediately admitted to the ICU, but the unit was full and staff were unsure of what to do.

“The two doctors who were trying to keep my mother stable said they thought they should wait for the doctor who was running the shift that day,” Sappie said.

Staff wanted the shift doctor to decide whether the seriously sick mother should be rerouted to another hospital, or if she should be kept at Pholosong in a normal ward.

Sappie said his mother was taken to a normal hospital ward at 11am, but was only seen by a doctor at 12.22pm.

“I fail to understand that a patient who was supposed to be in the ICU was only seen by a doctor after more than an hour in the ward,” he said.

I fail to understand that a patient who was supposed to be in the ICU was only seen by a doctor after more than an hour in the ward.

Sappie said he allowed the Pholosong staff time and space to perform their duties. Although he is trained and experienced in nursing, he did not get involved in the care of his gravely sick mother.

He believes his mother should have been monitored hourly, but says this did not happen.

“I don’t blame the nurse who was running the shift for my mother’s death. I blame the heads of the hospital that allowed a newly qualified general nurse to run a shift instead of a fully fledged professional nurse,” he said.

Many things done incorrectly

Sappie believes many things in the handling of his mother were done incorrectly.

“We gave them my mother’s medical history (when she was admitted), but what they wrote in the file is not what we gave them.”

According to Sappie, his mother suffered from epilepsy and was on treatment, yet her file stated she was a diabetic.

“My mother was never diabetic, she was only epileptic. They measured her sugar level as 13,7, which is very high. But they did not prescribe anything to lower her sugar levels.”

When Sappie went to see his mother during visiting hours later that day he found her dead in the bed. She was not covered, nor were the curtains drawn around her.

“I found the ventilator on, but my mother was long dead,” he said, explaining how nurses failed to answer him when he asked for the time of his mother’s death.

“They only noticed that she was dead when I called them,” he said.

Sappie now wants hospital management to be called to account, and wants to know everything that happened.

He said it took more than two days for the hospital to issue a notification of death – something that should have been done at the time it happened.

Investigation concluded

Steve Mabona, spokesman for the Gauteng Department of Health, said an investigation into the death of Thabitha Sappie was concluded last month. He said her family had not yet been invited to a redress meeting on grounds that “a relative of the deceased assaulted the hospital  attending nurse and took the patient’s file home”.

He said the hospital would meet with the Sappie family on a date agreed upon with them.

Mabona said the BI form or notification of death had been completed and signed on August 20, the day Thabitha Sappie died. However, because it was a Saturday, the document was only stamped on Monday August 22 when the body was handed to the undertaker – meaning there was no two days delay as alleged by the family.

Mabona said two professional nurses, one staff nurse and an assistant nurse were on duty when Thabitha Sappie died.

“They were all working as a team with a team leader,” Mabona said, adding that the ward had not been left in the hands of only one newly qualified nurse as had been claimed.

Sappie is now waiting for the redress meeting for closure.


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